Tufts extends run of fine form at Cupid Challenge

From left to right, first-year Olivia Steiner, sophomore Alina Strileckis and sophomore Raquel Whiting at the Cupid Challenge on Feb. 3. (Evan Sayles / The Tufts Daily)

Disclaimer: Madeleine Oliver is a staff photographer at The Tufts Daily. She was not involved in the writing or editing of this article.

Dialing in a number of strong performances at the Cupid Challenge over the weekend, the Tufts women’s track and field team continued its string of impressive results throughout the indoor season. Following a fifth-place finish at the inaugural Branwen-Smith King Invitational on Jan. 27, the Jumbos hosted the unscored Cupid Challenge at Gantcher Center on Feb. 2-3, competing in a variety of events including their first pentathlon of the season.

According to first-year Madeleine Oliver, the season is quickly culminating to the year’s most important events.

“The preparation phase is coming to a close,” Oliver said. “Now we’re looking to get out there and compete at those higher level meets. This is what we’ve been looking forward to all season.”

At the Cupid Challenge, senior co-captain Annalisa DeBari placed first in the 60-meter hurdles, crossing the line in exactly nine seconds. The Melrose, Mass. native’s time currently ranks 11th nationally throughout Div. III this season. Aside from DeBari, two other Jumbos booked times in the top 50 of Div. III in their respective events.

Sophomore Nehalem Kunkle-Read was runner-up in the 400 meters with a time of 59.95 seconds, placing her 46th in the nation for Div. III. In the long-distance events, junior Sarah Perkins finished the 3,000-meters in 10:19.08 for fifth place overall, earning a nationally ranked time of 35thIn the mile, sophomore Rhemi Toth crossed the finish line in 5:11.73 to grab fourth place. Toth’s converted time of 5:08.68 ranked 46th in Div. III as of Saturday night, but has since been knocked out of the top 50.

In the 800 meters, sophomores Lauren Diaz and Julia Gake placed sixth and seventh, respectively, with Diaz coming across the finish in 2:21.85 and Gake in 2:22.10. Junior Kylene DeSmith scored 2,778 points for a sixth-place finish in the pentathlon, after finishing third in both the 60-meter hurdles (9.66 seconds) and shot put (9.22 meters) components. First-year Hannah Norowitz finished right behind DeSmith, placing seventh, with 2,537 points.

In addition to success on the track, the Jumbos continued to flourish in the field events, receiving contributions from the team’s old and new guards. First-year Nkemdilim Aduka came in second place in the shot put, launching 11.62 meters, while junior Evelyn Drake came in fourth with a distance of 10.71 meters.

Senior Eliza Lawless was pleased with the results.

“I think we’ve had some great performances,” Lawless said. “We’re really building on that goal of getting half of our team to qualify for the New England Div. III [Championships].”

As an unscored meet, the Cupid Challenge served as another opportunity for the Jumbos to earn individual qualifications to the New England Div. III Championships. Qualifying is not an easy task, though, and requires insight from coaches and support from teammates, according to Oliver.

“Some of the girls will sit down with the coach to identify which events would be most likely for them to qualify in,” Oliver said. “The whole team knows most of the qualifying times, so we’re able to gauge where our teammates are and cheer them on.”

One example at the Cupid Challenge was in the 5,000 meters, where sophomore Ann Roberts came in 11th with a time of 18:42.26, allowing her to qualify.

As one of the teammates rooting on Roberts, Oliver detailed the experience.

“We knew a mile in [that] she was on pace to qualify,” Oliver said. “We were all hoping she would hold on to it, and come the last two laps, we knew she could do it. So we were all cheering her on. We all make sure to be aware and supportive of each others goals.”

Tufts will be back in action on Feb. 9-10 at the David Hemery Invitational at Boston University and Feb. 10 at the MIT Invitational.